I’m sitting at Barnes & Noble. Reading. Drinking coffee. You know, bookstore shit. Well, I’m reading and I hear a phone ring. Not the store’s phone, though it does sound like one of those “bbbrrrinnggg-bbbrrrinnnggg” deal that hung on walls in the houses where we all grew up. The ones with the cord… I hear a phone ring, then I hear a woman’s voice:
“Tristan, get off the phone. You’re in a bookstore.” I turned and saw a mother of three reach and take a cell from her oldest son. He walked away, clearly filled with early-teen angst.
How friggin’ awesome is that? I wanted to stand, walk over to the woman, and simply say “Thank you.” It’s not that the kid’s conversation would have disturbed my peace. I’m zoned out today regardless. Though I have, in the past, had my ire raised by too-loud, nearby yakking. Inane drivel, if I recall…
The kid was maybe 13. 14 tops. And you know that whoever called him had absolutely jacksquat of import to impart. His thoughtful mother, quite possibly, rescued us within earshot from hearing talk of how cool Lebron’s glasses are or to which level of Call of Modern Duty: Warfare 9 he got to last night. Thanks, Mom. Women like that should be called Mom by everyone’s kids. That’s how real she keeps it.
Speaking of thanking Moms, today marks nine years since my mother passed away. I would have forgotten had my brother not sent a facebook message to my Dad, my sister and me this morning. My aunt Mary also sent me a text at a-quarter-til eleven this morning asking if we should head over to King of Prussia today! [Remember the guy at the softball tournament a few weeks back?] At first, Mary’s suggestion perplexed me. Why would we go to King of Prussia? Hitting up the mall? IMAX? What else is there in King of Prussia? I laughed when I at last remembered. Mom woulda laughed to.
Anniversaries, birthdays, or holidays typically don’t get the better of me. Not since I stopped drinking, anyway. Back then, I’d get bombed—days in advance, no less—because that’s the proper way to honor a life well-lived, to say thanks. The calendar dutifully provided my plenty of occasion to pay my respects with booze, as detailed below for your enlightenment:
- January–New Years and the extended Christmas holiday. Plus it’s too fucking cold outside; let’s stay in and drink. I live in Florida, you say? Well, if it can be “five o’clock somewhere,” then it’s “fifteen degrees somewhere.” Drink up!
- February–Single and lonely on Valentines Day. Need I say more? I’m dating someone, you say? She’s a drunk too. We’re a perfect match.
- March–Spring Fever, Spring Training, and a little-known Irish holiday called St. Patricks Day. Obscure to non-Celtics, St Patrick gained renown by chasing the snakes off the Emerald Isle. Or something like that. I’ve never been to Ireland, so I can not attest to the absence/presence of legless reptiles. Anyway, we celebrate this great saint with whiskey and cabbage. No no no. Not together. We never mix the two until the following morning, when whiskey and cabbage are united in a toilet, soup pot, or umbrella holder.
- April–Easter usually lands in this Spring month, as well as the stoner holiday 4/20. Why do potheads all smoke at 4:20? Because that’s the time of day their bosses hand over a pink slip for an overwhelming underperformance. Oversalted fries can be tolerated only so long. *Fun Fact: I graduated from college on 4/20/96. I accepted my diploma from now-Florida-State-Representative William Proctor(then college President) higher than a motherfucker. A proud contingent of family and friends, mostly stoned as well, cheered as I strode across the stage.
- May–Mother’s Day; Mom’s birthday, which happens also to be my friend Hagy’s birthday, as well as Biggie Smalls’ birthday. If I didn’t party on May 21, the terrorists win.
- June–School’s Out; Father’s Day; and the anniversary of my accident. I’m not a father, you say? All the more reason to be young and bitter. With very little information, I’d drink to prove my manhood. The days leading up to June 19 were always dangerous, as that’s the day I lost my hand. No better way to show how brave and inspirational I am than by getting fall-down drunk and saying “Fuck it” a bunch of times. Oh, so wise.
- July–America was based on tolerance, you say? Even if the fourth weren’t my birthday, I’d have gotten hammered to celebrate America and allow everyone a lesson by having to tolerate my drunken stupor. Birffday!
- August–Birthdays of loves and loves lost, the anniversary of Mom’s passing. Surprisingly, since Mom passed in ’03, August 2005 was the only during which I was drinking. After she died, I went nearly a year without a drink. What about before that, you say? I drank to mourn the coming close to summer vacation.
- September–Back to school; Birthdays. I graduated years ago, you say? I maintain friends who take classes just for this reason!
- October–Birthdays; Halloween. Oh, and Columbus Day. Not Italian, you say? I was initiated by virtue of attending St. Lucy’s.
- November–Football Sunday; Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was another of those weeklong buildups—boozing-on-Monday-because-I-had-off-on-Thursday kind of deal, ya know?
- December–Christmas. All. Month. Long. From the week before Turkey Day through the New Year, excuses to party eluded me. Not that I sought them, but they didn’t exist anyway…
Since I “put the plug in the jug,” many of these occasions pass me by unnoticed. Uncelebrated. Unregretted.
I owe a lot to Mom. Mostly for the fact that she kept me from freezing to death in the winter and from being eaten by wolves all year, at least long enough for me to learn to climb a tree, build a fire, open my front door, or adjust the thermostat. She taught me useful stuff, such as <making a hand-to-mouth gesture> “food goes in here” and “don’t fall down.” Yeah, there was more to it, naturally. When I complained of having no clean clothes, she brought me to the basement where the washer and dryer waited. She instructed me on their use and said “You got it? I don’t want to hear that you have no clean clothes anymore.” Problem solved.
That’s what Mom did. She handled what needed to get done. It wasn’t always perfect, it wasn’t always pretty and it wasn’t always on time. But it got done. We ate. We had clothes. We had a roof over our heads. Anything else was a luxury. At times, we had HBO and swim club memberships and steak. Other times we had rabbit ears and friends with fire hydrant keys and breakfast for dinner. Maybe we went without, but never without each other. We always had love.
Mom was a good woman. If cell phones had been around, she might have gotten them for us. Had Barnes & Noble been what it is now, we might have gone book-windowshopping. Hell, as much as she read—all the friggin’ time—she woulda loved Barnes! We woulda been here often. Had these scenarios intersected, she would have told me not to talk on the phone in a bookstore. She wouldn’t have had me disturbing people, walking around a store like a little brat, talking about Mike Schmidt or Frogger.
If Mom were here, she’d be reading. Drinking tea. Telling kids to get off the phone. You know, bookstore shit.
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